MORENO VALLEY: 14 displaced in mobile-home park blaze

Wind-whipped flames ripped through three Moreno Valley mobile homes, displacing 14 people, including a family who was attending a Christmas party.

No one was hurt, not even a cat that firefighters found hiding under a bed during the 12:06 p.m. blaze Tuesday, Dec. 10, at Santiago Estates, in the 25350 Santiago Drive.

Karen Gvesrude escaped with her wire-haired terrier Jake when she saw smoke drifting by her kitchen window while she was talking on the phone with her brother in South Dakota.

“The neighbors were here (at the front door) telling me, ‘Get out! Get out,’ ” she recalled, standing near the burned-out shell of her single-wide mobile home where firefighters say the blaze began.

She credits those same fire crews with rescuing her cat Cassie.

All the victims said they’d be staying with friends or family.

The crews of 13 fire engines and three ladder trucks swarmed the narrow streets, but couldn’t prevent 25- to 30-mph winds from blowing the heat and burning embers horizontally, igniting the blue double-wide mobile home of the Negrete family. Fortunately, no one was home.

“We were having a Christmas party with my mom’s Bible study class,” 18-year-old Ruby Negrete said of the gathering in the park’s club house where she, her parents, 8-year-old brother and 13-year-old sister learned of what was becoming a three-alarm fire.

“We were finishing eating, and someone saw the smoke,” Ruby recalled.

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As fast as they could run, they were standing in front of their blazing home, where their green Honda CRX was parked perilously close.

“My mom told me to run back and get the car keys.”

By the time she returned with the keys, it was too hot to get near the car. Deputies and firefighters shooed them away.

By now, smoke was billowing 100 feet in the air — the height of a 10-story building — and drifting horizontally in a thick cloud for another 100 to 200 feet, said Cal Fire Capt. Lucas Spelman.

Inside the third mobile home to ignite was Diana Rice, who was sitting on the living room floor, playing with her 6-month-old nephew, Mathew.

Hearing unusually loud wind noise, she looked outside to check.

“I saw the fire in my shed,” she said.

More flames were engulfing her neighbor’s home.

“Grab the kids,” she yelled to her 23-year-old nephew.

And that’s how the two of them saved a toddler, a pre-schooler, and two infants.

She lost her home of nine years, but she emphasized that she and her husband, their three youngest boys, their eldest son, his girlfriend and their baby all are safe.

When one of her relatives fretted that much of the family’s baby clothes and other belongings had gone up in smoke, Diana never lost her composure.

“Don’t worry about that,” she said. “That’s all replaceable.

“We made it out safe.”

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